2023 Business to Arts Leadership Forum in association with PwC


Clarity of purpose, communication, diversity and sustainability emerged as key factors for transformation success, at the 2023 Business to Arts Leadership Forum, in association with PwC.

Strong leadership aligned behind a clear purpose was cited as one of the key enablers of successful transformation in business at the recent Business to Arts Leadership Forum, in association with PwC yesterday. The event featured an all-star leadership panel on the theme ‘Innovation Meets Creativity: Driving Change Together'.  

Enda McDonagh, Managing Partner, PwC Ireland, Louise O'Reilly, Chief Executive, Business to Arts.

Enda McDonagh, Managing Partner, PwC Ireland, Louise O'Reilly, Chief Executive, Business to Arts.

Moderated by journalist Dearbhail McDonald, the panel featured leaders who have successfully led the implementation of major transformation strategies within their respective organisations, including Tom Donnellan, Chief Executive of Bord na Móna; Annie Fletcher, Director Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA); Dr Orla McDonagh, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Humanities at TU Dublin and David Lee, Chief Technology Officer of PwC who has worked with thousands of companies undergoing transformation. 

Despite all leaders on the panel representing very different organisations, there was one winning common denominator amongst them, according to David Lee: “Clarity of purpose. The pace of change has accelerated and consequently the pace at which we need to respond has also accelerated. Transformation is not easy. The answers are not always obvious or consistent. Ensuring that leadership is aligned on the purpose of the transformation is the differentiator between success and failure - regardless of the scale or scope of the organisation” he said, noting that “in particular, AI, GenAI and robotics will propel change like never before disrupting how we work, live and communicate in the future.” 

Tom Donnellan, spoke about Bord na Móna’s unprecedented decision to transform into a climate solutions company when he took over at the helm five years ago. The company now supports overarching Government goals in achieving its renewable energy requirements by 2030 and the longer-term objective of carbon neutrality by 2050. Speaking of its ‘Brown to Green’ transformation journey, Mr Donnellan said “there was no easy way and there were many challenges” noting operational decisions that had to be made for a new strategic direction to be set. Delivering on that strategic vision resulted in FY23 profits of €95.2M, Bord na Móna’s best performance to date in its 90-year history."

Sustainability also emerged as a common challenge turned opportunity for other panellists with Annie Fletcher noting that a focus on the environment, including for their IMMA Outdoors programme, has helped attract younger audiences to the museum reimagined as ‘green cube’ rather than white cube gallery. Dr Orla McDonagh of TU Dublin said that sustainability is being embedded in every module and programme at Ireland’s first Technological University, which is undergoing enormous restructuring due to the merging of  DIT, IT Tallaght and IT Blanchardstown. It’s also the first University in Europe to have a Vice President of Sustainability.

Having the right people in place from diverse backgrounds was cited as a key factor in any successful transformation. “The wrong people replicate the past. The right people reimagine the future and that’s what transformation is all about” said David Lee, a sentiment echoed by other panellists. “It takes diverse talent to make business better” said Mr Donnellan, who spoke of how Bord na Móna used to have a 95% male employee base - now 20% female, including people from a variety of disciplines - from science to arts. Both IMMA and TU Dublin also focus strongly on fostering multi-disciplinary collaboration between both entrepreneurial or business and creative mindsets as a critical driver for innovation.

All panellists spoke of the importance of communication, with IMMA investing heavily in training on communicating about restructuring to the point of “overcommunicating and overexplaining,” according to Ms Fletcher. “You’ve got to deal very openly, transparently and confidently,” she said. Mr Donnellan agreed: “Overcommunication was the key. Townhall after townhall. Communicate, communicate, communicate, repeat, repeat, repeat,” he said. Dr McDonagh also expressed the importance of “thanking people and holding up the ‘hard edge of hope’ for people so they can see the future”. She spoke of the importance of reaching out to talk to those who have been through a similar process and learning from them. 

The members-only event was attended by leaders from a diverse cross-sectoral range from aviation, legal, semi-state agencies, finance, tech and real estate, to theatre, opera, dance, music, circus, and visual art.

Supported by PwC since 2016, the annual thought leadership breakfast harnesses the collective insight of Irish corporate and cultural leaders in addressing cross-cutting challenges facing Irish businesses of all kinds—whether SMEs, larger corporations, or non-profits.

Enda McDonagh, Managing Partner, PwC Ireland, who hosted the event at their Dublin headquarters said: “Communities, businesses and organisations are grappling with significant change, and face the prospect of further great change at a pace not experienced before.  Transformation is critical to remaining relevant and to having a sustainable future. But successful transformation is not just about technology or about doing things differently, it goes to the heart of the culture of an organisation.”

Speaking after the event Louise O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Business to Arts spoke of the unique impact of having so many diverse leaders in one room: “This was a masterclass in transformation. The diversity of experience, expertise and insight in the room could supercharge any transformation challenge. Combining creativity, risk-taking, and clear strategic thinking can fuel innovation and accelerate positive change in any organisation and in terms of our impact on society."


Business to Arts Leadership Forum Panellists, (LtoR): David Lee, Chief Technology Officer & Technology Practice Lead PwC; Annie Fletcher, Director, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Tom Donnellan, CEO, Bord na Mona, and Dr. Orla McDonagh, Dean, Faculty of Arts & Humanities. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

Business to Arts Leadership Forum Panellists, (LtoR): David Lee, Chief Technology Officer & Technology Practice Lead PwC; Annie Fletcher, Director, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Tom Donnellan, CEO, Bord na Mona, and Dr. Orla McDonagh, Dean, Faculty of Arts & Humanities. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

Notes for Editors - Panellist information

  • Tom Donnellan, Chief Executive, Bord Na Móna: Bord na Móna’s ‘From Brown to Green’ strategy is an unprecedented story of transformation. Arguably one of Ireland’s greatest transformation stories, Mr Donnellan led Bord na Móna as it turned threats into opportunities by completely reinventing itself as a climate solutions company. Tom shared how he led the company from an uncertain future to becoming a thriving eco player, now 100% focused on helping Ireland meet its sustainability goals.

  • Annie Fletcher, Director Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA): IMMA reimagines 'the museum' as an open and participatory space that connects people to contemporary life through art. Annie shared her experience in driving a culture of collaboration and digital innovation to drive a new agenda for the museum’s role in society and art as an agent of change.

  • David Lee, Chief Technological Officer and Technology Practice Lead, PwC: David shared insights on navigating challenging times and lessons learnt based on his 30 years of experience leading companies through periods of change.  This is against a background of the finding from PwC’s 2023 Global CEO survey that one in four businesses stated that unless they change course, they will not be in business in 10 years.

  • Dr. Orla McDonagh, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, TU Dublin: Ireland's first technological university came into being in 2019, with the transformation of DIT, ITB, and ITT to create the Technological University Dublin, or TU Dublin at a new campus in Grangegorman. Orla played a key leadership role in the transformation of the university and will provide unique insights into what it takes to lead a large and diverse institution through immense organisational and structural change. 

About Business to Arts

Business to Arts is a membership-based charity that encourages private investment in the arts and connects the corporate and cultural sectors through purposeful partnerships. Business to Arts’  corporate network ranges across the business sectors from local family-run companies, SMEs, and semi-state companies to MNCs and corporate foundations. Its arts members range from individual artists to the National Cultural Institutions and include all art forms. A list of members can be viewed here.

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Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

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